Thursday, July 17, 2008

Player's Wrongs

Taking a break from the trading stuff for a moment, I’d like to address the things I’ve read about “player’s rights.”

Jeez. Is this ever a politician’s phrase.

How exactly did the playing of this game become about the use of this sort of language? I mean, I can understand the prats in the marketing departments for various gaming companies inventing this sort of tripe, but when the use of it becomes prevalent among the actual players…

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I don’t get together with my group for the purpose of raising the social consciousness of the neighborhood. The whole of my “player’s rights” include throwing empty cans at me during my runnings for the bad puns I make, making fun of my odd attempts at various accents for the Italians, Russians and Transylvanians they meet and generally treating my recent efforts to create a random system for the composition of road surfaces (17: cobblestone road, medium-sized red granite stones mixed with square blocks of slate) with contempt. I, in turn, belittle the crude artwork on their character sheets, their ability to roll dice successfully and the untimeliness of their arrival.

Yes, that’s right, we’re friends. We’re not lawyers.

The seriousness of my world does not extend to the point where I try to control their behavior beyond, “Will you guys shut the fuck up for three minutes?” My world is serious in its design. I don’t limit their use of language by demanding overmuch that they phrase every word as though it were spoken from Shakespeare, I don’t limit their use of lap tops in a session or their hopeless dependence on cell phones. I can’t imagine thinking that as a DM I somehow have the right to tell such-and-such he can’t step out of the room for a smoke while I’m computing treasure (though I will kill the fucker if he does it during combat), that he should wait for a “formally established break-period” to do so.

Yes, it’s annoying sometimes. But my player’s don’t get given “rights” by me…they have rights according to the society we live in.

One of the dumbest, most ridiculous ideas supported by the DMG was the predesignated caller, who was supposed to take everyone’s suggestions and then direct them towards the DM, as though we were not all sitting at the table together. This was supposed to overcome the chaos that can be a running, with everyone talking at once. It’s the sort of rule that only helped crush the overall excitement of the game, trying to hammer it into some kind of ritualized activity.

I think it is the responsibility of the DM to know his books well-enough that he can answer most questions right off the top of his head…and to be able to find the pertinent data quickly if he doesn’t know it. The incorporation of a lap-top into the game as I play it now is a god-send…I can quickly find obscure files with obscure rules and read them off, even print them off if necessary, within a couple of minutes. We have not yet begun to run LAN cables between people’s computers—mostly because not everyone has one yet—but we look forward to doing so. I would like it because I could rid myself of the map, for one thing…how excellent it would be to display combat electronically, having the ability to move people around so they were able to see where they were on their screens.

I’m often pressed with questions, and often questions that players could damn well look up themselves: How much experience do I need to be next level? How many proficiencies should I have? Which one is an eight-sided dice?

I could growl and snarl that the players ought to read the books, but I don’t. It takes seconds to answer, precious seconds that are much briefer than the ten minutes it takes them to find the information themselves (or for me to find it in the books for them, as often happens). And they don’t retain the information any more than they retain the page number where the information is found: they’re players.

Look, I’m the expert. I better be. They’re more interested in their new dice and character sheets.

Rights? I have no rights, they have no rights. I DM because I must…they play because I don’t bore them. And the dynamic is based on our mutual regard for one another, NOT on our recognition of each other as political entities.

I don’t control them because I CAN’T control them. And woe betide the DM who tries. They will find themselves running a campaign for no one.


  1. I'd love to know where you're reading about this concept. I am sure it will be quite entertaining.


  3. Yeah, I did that search myself before asking, and it came back with a princely count of eighteen results, several of which were computer game- or gambling-related and others of which are old. Taking out D&D widens it, but there's still not a lot that seems relevant and current. (There's lots of discussion in this vein on and off at the usual forums.) I was just curious what specifically compelled you to write this.

    But truthfully, the players have the right to play or not play based on the quality of the game, content, setting, other players involved, etc. Beyond that, expectations that there will be X amount of this, Y must be included "because my character concept says so!" or that any rule or setting changes are approved by group acceptance are a load of crap. The DM is in charge of all that. If you don't like the game, don't play.

    Now, a DM that alienates all his players won't have a game to run anymore, but as long as other players are enjoying his game then those who aren't happy always have the right to seek out a game that's more in line with what they're looking for. Heck, go run a game! The world needs more DMs (especially old-school ones).

  4. Restless,

    All of that is true enough. I don't disparage your comments, they're good ones. I do have set principles that I run my game by. It is only the idea that people--living, breathing people--must be somehow given permission to "have the right to seek out a game..."

    They can't figure this out without it having to be framed in political terms?

  5. I suppose there's only so much you can blog RPG-wise before you have to resort to splitting hairs over game play and the politics of the gaming table.

    That is, unless you're blogging about simulating an economy in an RPG. From what I've read so far, I think you can keep this going for a hundred posts or more.

    By the way, I'm starting to build the groundwork for translating your algorithms into computer code. I'm sure there are others doing the same thing and probably better than I, but I have to say I'm having a blast, and it's a nice break between painting miniatures.

    Keep the good stuff coming, Alexis. If I ever get my site stabilized, I'll send you the URL and you can read all the rambling bullshit I post about gaming. ;-)


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